The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (25-20-3, 5th Metropolitan) visit San Jose to take on our Sharks (24-14-6, 3rd Pacific) at East coast friendly 5:00 today, so at least we can technically still drink. The Penguins have struggled this year, but they're on an upswing lately, and for those of us who were lucky enough (ha ha, jokes) to watch captain Sidney Crosby lift the cup in this building in person, the wounds cut by the 2016 Final still feel pretty fresh.
Fresh off of a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night (thanks?), the Penguins are trying to make up some of the ground they lost earlier in the season. Winners of five of their last six, Pittsburgh has climbed back into a playoff spot, tied with the New York Rangers for the second Eastern Conference wild card position. A win tonight would tie them with the idle Columbus Blue Jackets for third in the Metropolitan division.
The Pens' recent streak has been helped along in no small part by the heroics of Crosby, who has three goals and 14(!) points during a six game point streak. With one goal tonight, Crosby could become the 95th player in NHL history to score 400. Add in the Pens' three game win streak over San Jose dating back through last season, and the Sharks have their work cut out for them.
The Sharks are home from putting up a 2-1-0 record through a three game road trip, and we should savor this rare opportunity to see them during one of only four home games in the month of January. The trip ended with a thud, however, as the Sharks couldn't quite clean up a dismal first period against the Colorado Avalanche, and lost 5-3. To add insult to injury, the Calgary Flames swooped up the number two spot in the division by earning a point in their shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets earlier today.
The special teams match up should be an interesting side show tonight, as we'll see the clash of the NHL's third best penalty kill (San Jose's 84.2%) with the top ranked power play (Pittsburgh's 26.9%). Joe Thornton is riding a rare four game goal scoring streak, an added dimension to his game that seems to have really boosted San Jose's offense.
With only two points separating the Pacific's second team from it's fifth, every point counts and the Sharks can't afford to leave two on the table tonight.
Timo Meier -- Joe Thornton -- Joe Pavelski
Tomas Hertl -- Logan Couture -- Kevin Labanc
Mikkel Boedker -- Chris Tierney -- Joonas Donskoi
Joel Ward -- Barclay Goodrow -- Melker Karlsson
Joakim Ryan -- Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon -- Dylan DeMelo
Scratched: Jannik Hansen, Tim Heed
Injured: Martin Jones (undisclosed)
Jones has a mystery injury that head coach Pete DeBoer says is unrelated to the one that caused him to miss time in November. This could go a long way to explaining the Great Colorado Disaster of Thursday evening, and is a good opportunity to see how Dell handles the additional pressure of a back-to-back, but hopefully it's nothing major.
Heed will miss his fourth straight game. It's unclear whether DeMelo has some compromising pictures of some members of the coaching staff or if Heed kicked someone's dog or if DeBoer is just nursing some PTSD after 13 January's disaster against the Arizona Coyotes. Whatever the case, Heed will be enjoying the view from above yet again.
Dominik Simon -- Sidney Crosby -- Conor Sheary
Carl Hagelin -- Evgeni Malkin -- Patric Hornqvist
Jake Guentzel -- Riley Sheahan -- Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl -- Jean-Sebastien Dea -- Ryan Reaves
Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang
Olli Maatta -- Justin Schultz
Matt Hunwick -- Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: Ian Cole, Daniel Sprong, Matt Murray (personal)
Injured: Bryan Rust (upper body), Chad Ruhwedel (upper body), Carter Rowney (upper body)
Murray will miss his fifth contest following the death of his father. Passion and rivalry in sports is important, but the human element should always take precedent. For what it's worth, our thoughts and sympathies are with the Murray family and we wish Matt the best.
DeSmith is set to start his second game in a row. Head coach Mike Sullivan: "When he plays well, he tends to be a guy that gets hot. So it's a decision that the coaching staff made for this particular game."
Schultz is a game time decision after surviving a Dustin Brown assassination attempt on Thursday in LA. Seriously, what does it take for this guy to get suspended. This hit getting no suspension two days after Andrew Cogliano missed two for this one is inexcusable, and further evidence the the Department of Player Safety is interested in anything but. Brown has a history of this kind of behavior, and is an embarrassment to the Kings and to the league, full stop.
Phew, feels good to get that out of my system. Go Sharks!
Where to Watch
Broadcast: NBCSCA, ATTSN-PT
Stream: NHL.tv / NHL App
Radio: 98.5 KFOX / NHL App / Sharks App